Glastonbury 2014

Metallica rock the Pyramid Stage during their headline set at Glastonbury

Like often seems to be the case, controversy becomes a loud storm whipped up in an empty vessel.

Metallica (heavy) rock their headline set at Glastonbury

What hasn’t already been said about Metallica headlining Glastonbury? An awful booking? Controversial? Irrelevant to the audience? Nobody will turn up? One poll even claimed nearly four out of five people who bought a ticket to this year’s festival would have resold it if they had the chance after Metallica was announced as the headline act.

It’s not hard to see where the naysayers might be coming from. Metallica haven’t exactly been shaping current mainstream popular culture for a while now, nor are they a Prince - an act with a back catalogue packed with songs that even your Mum would know. It sort of does make sense to suggest that a band that huge could be a risky pick to top the bill at the biggest festival in the world.

But the proof is in the pudding, and Metallica’s pudding is reassuringly black. Cometh the hour, cometh the rock Gods. ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and ‘Wherever I May Roam’ both suggest that, in actual fact, this may be home ground after all. The crowd does have a clue, people have turned up, calls go answered, songs sung back. It’s different, but it can still belong.

“Metallica is grateful to be invited to such an event,” James Hetfield exclaims, before launching into a rapturous ‘Sad But True’. “We’re very proud to be here and be representing the heavier sides of music. I know it’s all represented here, so why not heavy rock, heavy metal, huh? It’s about time.”

Whatever was said beforehand, by now it’s hard not to agree. Love them or not, the sheer force of will Metallica plant on the Pyramid Stage is fearsome. This is a monster; one tight and coiled, knowing it has a Godzilla sized fight on its hands and bristling for action. These godfathers of metal have arrived, not only to tick one off their own bucket list, but to blast the doors off an establishment for their musical brethren to follow.

“Me and the boys would like to dedicate this next song to everyone here who’s been waiting for something like this,” he continued, “but also all of the British heavy metal bands who have been dreaming, and still do dream, of playing on this stage right here.”

When it comes down to it, if it’s not a life long love of metal, there are enough teen phases, enough scribbled c60s of copied albums in days gone by, to make sure ‘The Unforgiven’ does its job more than admirably. Hetfield may insist on shouting “Glasto” every second minute, but the sing-a-long for ’The Memory Remains’ is as much of a moment as any other.

It isn’t without hiccups. ‘One’ starts with a few bum notes, but ‘Master Of Puppets’ soon puts that behind it. A tease of both ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ and ‘Bleeding Me’ from Kirk Hammett before ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is like an easter egg for the proper fans during a Metallica greatest hits set. ‘Enter Sandman’ is the signature, though. A thumping behemoth, Glastonbury instantly steps things up a notch to eleven. Everything is brighter. Louder too. Like often seems to be the case, controversy becomes a loud storm whipped up in an empty vessel. Metal could always work on Worthy Farm, but with this sort of resonance it can blow the barn doors all the way to Never Never Land.

Metallica played:

Creeping Death
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Wherever I May Roam
Sad but True
Fade to Black
The Unforgiven
The Memory Remains
Master of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters

Whiskey In The Jar
Seek And Destroy

Photo: Jonathan Hordle/REX

Tags: News, Festivals, Metallica

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